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Zadorov Returns To Action With Added Protection

Avalanche defenseman only missed three games from a broken jaw

by Ron Knabenbauer @RonKnab / ColoradoAvalanche.com

VANCOUVER, British Columbia--Nikita Zadorov will be donning some added protection on his helmet, but the extra head gear shouldn't hinder his ability on the ice.

"I wouldn't be stepping on the ice if I wasn't 100 percent," Zadorov said. "It's definitely kind of a long injury, you just have to go through it. Playing with extra protection on the face, but everything else, nothing changes. I'm ready to go. I've been training hard the last five days, and I'm ready to go."

The 6-foot-6, 235-pound defenseman will return to his spot on the Colorado Avalanche blue line on Saturday when the club takes on the Vancouver Canucks at Rogers Arena.

Zadorov has missed the past three games after having surgery to help repair his broken jaw after taking a shot to the face on Nov. 7 against the Nashville Predators. He had surgery the next day and has been on the ice skating since Monday.

The injury came early in the second period while Colorado was killing a penalty. After laying on the ice momentarily, he was able to finish the shift before making his way to the bench.

"I fell on the ice right away, but I didn't hear the whistle so I was like, 'I got to get up because I can't leave the guys 5-on-3,' so I cleared the puck and went to the dressing room," the Moscow, Russia, native recalled. "Our doctors did a good job to stitch me up right away."

Video: Nikita Zadorov returns to the lineup in Vancouver

His helmet for Saturday's game and for the foreseeable future includes a jaw protector on it to help his face heal. And while there is sure to be some discomfort, Zadorov's recovery from the injury shouldn't hinder his playing ability.

It's not unheard of for a player to play through a broken jaw; Zdeno Chara of the Boston Bruins did it last spring during the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

"It's not the best, but it is quick, only missed a couple games," Zadorov said. "It's nice to get back, especially with it being a tough time for our team with all of these guys going down, lots of injuries. We need all of our guys to step up and bring their game."

His return to the ice comes as the Avs are dealing with a rash of injuries. Pierre-Edouard Bellemare returned to action on Thursday in Edmonton from a concussion, but the team's injury report still has six individuals on it with head coach Jared Bednar announcing that forward Tyson Jost out for the contest against the Canucks with an upper-body ailment.

Still, Zadorov's return will be gladly welcomed by the Avs.

The defenseman was leading the team in hits at the time of his injury and is averaging 2:14 of penalty-kill time per game. Zadorov has registered three points (one goal, two assists) in 15 games.

He's expected to begin the game paired on the backend with Ian Cole.

GOALIE CAROUSEL

Antoine Bibeau will make his first NHL start with the Avalanche after making his debut in relief of Adam Werner on Thursday in a 6-2 loss at the Edmonton Oilers. He made nine saves on 10 shots.

Head coach Jared Bednar said the decision to start Bibeau came from the fact that the 25-year-old keeper has played professionally in North America for the last five seasons with Toronto Maple Leafs and San Jose Sharks organizations. Werner, who has guarded the pipes in the Swedish pro leagues for the last three years, is in his first campaign playing on this side of the Atlantic.

"Just a little more experience than Werns has," Bednar said. "I thought he came in and did a nice job in the second half of that Edmonton game."

Video: Avs head coach Jared Bednar gives an injury update

Both netminders began the year as the tandem with the Colorado Eagles of the American Hockey League but have been thrust into the major leagues with Grubauer dealing with a lower-body injury and Pavel Francouz suffering a concussion on Tuesday at the Winnipeg Jets.

"It's not an ideal situation to be in when you're missing both of your regular goaltenders, but it is what it is. Injuries are a part of the game," Bednar said. "We got a great game out of Werner in Winnipeg, and now we'll need one out of Bibeau here tonight. It is something we'll have to battle through. The injuries are piling up and we got to find a way to grind out some wins."

Both injured goalies are making positive progress.

Grubauer has been skating with the team since Monday, and Bednar said Saturday's morning skate session was the first where he's gone "full out." Francouz joined the skate after the team part wrapped up, working with goaltending coach Jussi Parkkila.

"He's in concussion protocol, so you know how that goes," Bednar said. "You just got to take it day by day and keep progressing.... Just do some movement stuff with Jussi and then tomorrow hopefully or the next day we can have him taking some shots if he keeps feeling better."

INJURY REPORT

The Avalanche don't get any reprieve on the injury front with Tyson Jost out for the game in Vancouver with an upper-body injury. The forward played 11:36 on Thursday against the Oilers but didn't take the ice in the final 6:52 of the contest.

Here is a look at where Colorado's present injury situation stands:

  • G Pavel Francouz (concussion protocol): out indefinitely
  • G Philipp Grubauer (lower body): day-to-day
  • LW Gabriel Landeskog (lower body): out indefinitely
  • C Tyson Jost (upper body): day-to-day
  • RW Mikko Rantanen (lower body): week-to-week
  • C/LW Colin Wilson (lower body): out indefinitely
  • D Nikita Zadorov (broken jaw): returning to action Saturday
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